NASA's SGI Altix Supercomputer Ranked Among the Best on Official List of World's Fastest Computers

Press Release From: Silicon Graphics
Posted: Monday, November 8, 2004

image Fully Operational 10,240-Processor Columbia System Rated at 51.87 Teraflops, Returning World-Class Supercomputing to U.S. Scientists

Screaming past Japan's venerable Earth Simulator and 498 of the world's 500 most powerful systems, NASA's 10,240-processor Columbia supercomputer, built from 20 SGI® Altix® systems, seized the second position in the latest roster of the world's Top 500 supercomputers. Announced today at the Supercomputing Conference 2004, the 24th Top 500 list confirms that NASA's Columbia supercomputer has added yet another performance milestone for the acclaimed SGI Altix platform from Silicon Graphics. Columbia is the world's fastest system to be based on industry standard Intel® Itanium® 2 processors and the Linux® operating system. Currently, there are more than 800 SGI Altix systems delivered and in production worldwide.

Attaining sustained performance of 51.87 trillion calculations per second (teraflops) and peak performance of 60.96 teraflops across 10,240 processors, Columbia vanquished venerable supercomputers such as Japan's famed Earth Simulator, which at 35.86 teraflops has been rated as the world's top supercomputer for more than two years. The Columbia supercomputer, which since Oct. 12 has been in full production use at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., generated LINPACK benchmark results that were second only to IBM's Blue Gene/L, a temporary installation of a system intended for eventual deployment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"The Columbia system is a tremendous development for NASA and the nation. Simulation of the evolution of the Earth and planetary ecosystems with high fidelity has been beyond the reach of Earth scientists for decades," said Ghassem Asrar, Deputy Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "With Columbia, scientists are already seeing dramatic improvements in the fidelity of simulations in such areas as global ocean circulation, prediction of large scale structures in the universe, and the physics of supernova detonations."

"We are extremely proud to have not only achieved exceptional performance with Columbia at 50 teraflops, but to have also created a production system, delivering real results in less than 120 days," said Bob Bishop, Chairman and CEO of SGI. "SGI has established new standards by which customers will expect future supercomputers to be built and delivered."

Representing SGI installations -- in production -- located throughout the world, the Top 500 list features new Altix supercomputer deployments at commercial sites and research institutions such as: -- Ford Motor Company
-- French energy giant Total
-- National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
-- University of Rochester
-- University of Manchester

Several current Top 500 entrants featured previously on the Top 500 list added more Altix systems to their deployments as well. These expanded installations, in addition to NASA's Columbia system, underscore the productivity and ease of use that the SGI Altix system's global shared-memory architecture affords the world's most demanding users.

Real Science Conducted on Altix

Outfitting some of the world's most demanding user environments with an unique global shared-memory architecture, scalable Intel Itanium 2 processors and a proven 64-bit Linux operating environment, Altix enables scientists and engineers to hold massive data sets and complex problems entirely in memory. Leveraging this powerful platform, Altix users have achieved breakthroughs in a broad range of technical computing disciplines. The top markets for Altix applications include:

-- Computational structural mechanics
-- Computational fluid dynamics
-- Computational chemical and material sciences
-- Bioinformatics
-- Seismic processing and interpretation
-- Reservoir Simulation
-- Climate, weather and ocean simulation

In addition to transforming scientific discovery at NASA and other HPC customer sites, Columbia signals a new era for easily deployable supercomputers. Columbia was built, installed, and made fully available to scientists in fewer than 120 days, a radical departure from traditional supercomputers that historically have required years to implement. Columbia is built from the same industry standard, commercially available Altix systems -- based on Intel Itanium 2 processors and featuring a 64-bit Linux OS -- that have been in widespread use throughout the world since SGI introduced Altix in January 2003. Leading automakers, consumer product manufacturers, energy companies, pharmaceutical companies, national laboratories, government agencies and research institutions have adopted the SGI Altix platform.

About The Top 500 List

The 24th Top 500 List was announced today at the Supercomputing Conference 2004. The Top 500 project was started in 1993 to provide a reliable basis for tracking and detecting trends in high-performance computing. Twice a year, a list of the sites operating the 500 most powerful computer systems is assembled and released. The best performance on the Linpack benchmark is used as performance measure for ranking the computer systems.

SILICON GRAPHICS | The Source of Innovation and Discovery(TM)

SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc., is a leader in high-performance computing, visualization and storage. SGI's vision is to provide technology that enables the most significant scientific and creative breakthroughs of the 21st century. Whether it's sharing images to aid in brain surgery, finding oil more efficiently, studying global climate, providing technologies for homeland security and defense or enabling the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, SGI is dedicated to addressing the next class of challenges for scientific, engineering and creative users. With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at

NOTE: Silicon Graphics, SGI, Altix, the SGI cube and the SGI logo are registered trademarks, and The Source of Innovation and Discovery is a trademark of Silicon Graphics, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries worldwide. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries. Intel and Itanium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

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